History of Tourism in Nepal
Before 1662, no Westerner had traveled to Nepal. The first Westerners to visit Nepal were Christian missionaries Gruber and Doraville. In 1722, the first Missionary office was established in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. When Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal, took over Kathmandu in 1769, he banished all Christians and closed Nepal for foreigners. In 1816, Nepal lost a war with Britain. The newly signed treaty made Nepal accept the first foreign diplomatic mission.
Nepal established diplomatic ties with the United States in 1947. Nevertheless, Nepal was still closed for the Westerners. The 1950 revolution marked the beginning of modern Nepal. Westerners flocked into Nepal to explore mountains. Today, tourism is the second largest revenue-generating sector in Nepal.
Whether you are a foreigner living and working in Nepal, or have a Nepali visa and want to travel to Nepal, here are the top 30 things to do in the nascent republic.
#1 Sightseeing in Kathmandu
There are numerous places of religious, cultural and historical importance in Kathmandu. Most of the monuments, temples, monasteries, and palaces in Kathmandu belong to 14th through 18th century; however, some are more than two thousand years old. Kathmandu Durbar Square, the medieval royal palace plaza, is the main tourist attraction in Kathmandu.
#2 Sightseeing in Patan
According to the Lonely Planet research, Patan has a greater concentration of temples than any other cities and towns in Nepal. The four Stupas built by Indian Emperor Ashoka, when he visited Patan in 249 BCE, are in the four corners of Patan city. Most of the Hindu and Buddhist temples in Patan belong to 8th through 17th century. Durbar Square Patan, Golden Temple (Hiranya Varna Mahavihar), Kumbeshwar Temple, and Red Machhendranath Temple are some of the attractions of Patan.
#3 Sightseeing in Bhaktapur
Nepal Government has tried to keep the city of Bhaktapur in its medieval structure that’s why automobiles and modern constructions are prohibited inside the town center. Bhaktapur is famous for its Royal Palace Plaza popularly called Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the ancient settlements, and traditional farming.
#4 Visiting Stupas: The Buddhist Temples in Nepal
Stupa is a Buddhist temple design, which consists of white dome, gilded spire, brass canopy, prayer wheels and prayer flags. There are above hundred ancient stupas in Nepal, some of the famous stupas are believed to be about two thousand years old. You can visit Boudhanath, Swayambhunath and Charumati Vihara. Boudhanath and Swayambhunath are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
#5 Visiting Pashupatinath and other Hindu Temples
Nepal is a secular state with predominance of Hindu and Buddhist population. There are more than 3000 ancient Hindu Temples and over 1200 Buddhist Temples and Monasteries in Nepal. Most of the Hindu Temples in Nepal are built in Pagoda design, consisting of multi-tiered roofs, latticed windows, carved doors and standing on the multi-tiered plinths. Pashupatinath is the most important temple in Nepal, other popular temples are Budhanilkantha, Changunarayana, Krishna Temple etc.
#6 A Visit to Namche Bazaar, Everest and the Sagarmatha National Park
Namche is a small town in Everest region at the altitude of 3440 metres. Namche is the gateway to Everest Expedition and Everest Base Camp Trek. If you are not a trekker or a mountaineer, you should experience Everest region by travelling to Namche. Namche is two days walk from Tenzing-Hillary Airport, in Lukla.
You can reach the foothill of Everest by trekking from Lamosangu village near Kathmandu, or by walking from Lukla. It takes 11 days to reach Everest from Lamosangu village and three days from Lukla.
#7 Annapurna Mountains
Annapurna Mountain range is the world’s famous destination for trekking and mountain expeditions. There are numerous mountains in Annapurna range and Annapurna I which is 8091 is the highest among them. Some of the trekkers’ paradise such as Muktinath, Mustang and Manang are in Annapurna mountain or beyond Annapurna mountains.
#8 Jungle Safari in Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park was a royal hunting reserve before it was turned into a National Park in 1973. King George V and his son hunted down 18 rhinoceros in Chitwan Jungle when they visited Nepal in 1911.
You can reach Chitwan National Park in six-hour bus ride or 25 minutes flight accompanied by 15 minutes drive.
Things to do in Chitwan National Park
Boating in Narayani River
Watch crocodiles in Rapti River
Jungle safari on elephants back
Jungle safari in a jeep
Visiting elephant breeding centre
Watch Tharu cultural shows
#9 Jungle Safari in Bardia National Park
Touted as the best place on earth to spot royal Bengal Tiger, Bardia Naional Park is a home to 250 species of birds, tigers, rhinos, wild elephants, swamp deers, and black bucks. If you are lucky, you can even spot a heard of wild elephants.
#10 Bird Watching
It has been found that birds migrate to Nepal from Tibet by crossing the Himalayas. Some of the migratory birds come to Nepal from as far as Siberia. There are over 900 species of birds in Nepal, which is 10 percent of the world’s entire species. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded in Kathmandu valley alone.
Some of the popular bird watching spots are:
Koshi Tappu National Park Bird Watching
Shivapuri National Park
Chitwan National Park Bird Watching
Phulchowki Bird Watching
Pokhara Bird Watching
Bardiya National Park Bird Watching
The Annapurna Conservation Area
#11 Sightseeing in Pokhara
Pokhara is a city of lakes, caves and mountains. Pokhara is the gateway to short treks such as Ghandruk and Ghorepani treks and long treks such as Annapurna Treks. When you are in Pokhara, don’t miss a walk to Sarangkot.
Things to do in Pokhara
Visit International Mountain Museum
Rafting on the Kali Gandaki and Seti rivers
A walk to Poon Hill: The best place for mountain viewing
Boating in Phewa and Begnas Lake
Gurkha Memorial Museum
Annapurna Butterfly Museum
Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery
#12 Mountain Flights
For those who want to see the mighty Himalayas but cannot trek anywhere near, they can try mountain flights. Mountain flights offer eye level view of the mountains in a close range. During the mountain flights, planes fly at an average of 7000 m. One-hour flight in the morning takes you near Everest, Annapurna Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Ganesh Himal, Gauri Shankar, Lhotse, Nuptse, Langtang, Manaslu, Lamjung Himal, Dhaulagiri and many others.
If you think trekking is not your cup of tea, try hiking.
Some of the popular hiking routes near Kathmandu are:
Nagarjuna Hiking (5 hrs)
White Monastery Hiking (4 hrs)
Sundarijal-Chisapani Hiking (3 hrs)
Nagarkot Hiking (5 hrs)
Namobuddha Hiking (4 hrs)
Changunarayan Hiking (4 hrs)
Hiking routes near Pokhara
Sarangkot Hiking (6 -7 hrs)
World Peace Pagoda Hiking (4-5 hrs)
Naudanda-Sarankot Hiking (6-7 hrs)
#14 Visiting Lumbini
Lumini is the birthplace of the Buddha. There are many religious and archeological sites in Lumbini.
#15 Meditations in Nepal Vipassana Centre
Nepal Vipassana Centre situated in Budhanilkantha, Kathmandu, is the best place to attend a free meditation course. You can attend a 10-day free residential Vipassana meditation in Nepal Vipassana Centre. You can also practice free meditation in Lumbini or paid meditation in Nagarjuna hill.
#16 Participate in Nepali Festivals
If your visit to Nepal coincides with any of the hundreds of festivals in Nepal, try to become a part of celebration.
Some of the major festivals of Nepal are:
New Year’s Day (April 14)
Buddha Jayanti: The birth day of Lord Buddha (May 24)
Machchendranath Rath Jatra (May-June)
Father’s Day (August-September)
Indra Jatra (September)
Bada Dashain – (October-November)
Tihar (Diwali) (October-November)
Maha Shivaratri: the birth night of Lord Shiva) (February-March)
Holi: Festivals of Colors (March)
Mother’s Day (March)
#17 Eat Momo
Try Momo, which is sold in all kinds of eateries, from roadside food stall to the extravagant restaurants in five star hotels. Momo is the Nepali version of Asian dumplings. Momos are made by filling meat, vegetable or dairy products inside a dough ball and are steamed or fried.
#18 King’s Way Walk
Walk around Rani Pokhari, the Queen’s Pond, Ghantaghar-clock tower, and then to Durbar Marg, the King’s Way. In the Durbar Marg, you can find some of the finest hotels, shopping centers, and restaurants in Nepal. Narayanhiti Palace, the residence of the Kings of Nepal until 2008, is in King’s Way. Narayanhiti Palace is now converted into a museum.
Nepal is ideal place for sport fishing because of it’s over 4000 rivers, and thousands of lakes. In the rivers that run through the Himalayas you can find mahseer, snow trout, fresh water eel, and catfishes. Angling in the rivers like Gandaki, Koshi and Karnali is an experience of lifetime. You can also team up with fishing communities such Bote, Majhi, Tharu and Machhuwar. You can combine your fishing trip with rafting.
#20 Home Staying
Home staying is a program where a traveller gets an opportunity to stay couple of days in a local’s house, usually in a remote place, and eat local’s food. Some of the homes staying destinations are Ghale Gaun, Gurung Gaun etc.